An optimistic speech on the future of the private hospital sector was delivered by the head of Bupa Insurance.
Chief executive Alex Perry said self-pay and private medical insurance subscriptions were growing strongly.
His company’s insurance business had just passed three million subscribers for the first time, driven mostly by the business market and hard work done with consultant partners.
Mr Perry said now, more than ever, value in the sector needed to be proved by providing healthcare that was affordable, easy and quick to access, and delivering better outcomes.
GPs were now digitally handling 10,000 appointments a week for Bupa customers and over 50,000 patients had last year used direct access for musculoskeletal services, cancer or mental health.
The insurer was looking to build more ‘strategic partnerships’ with consultants and hospitals, he said.
But he was critical of ‘glacial’ progress to improve the quality of data available for the sector. This needed to be available much faster.
He believed partnerships would help deliver what customers had come to expect and which other sectors already delivered:
Simplifying access to care through digital appointment booking;
Creating seamless care pathways by exchanging medical notes and test results between insurers, consultants and hospitals without the customer needing to do the legwork;
Taking the hassle out of claiming through hospitals, and consultants sharing referral and treatment information to enable pre-authorisation of treatment on behalf of customers.
He said: ‘These three changes alone would deliver a radically better experience for all those using the private healthcare system. And delivering them will be a team effort.’
While 86% of independent facilities recognised by the insurer were rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Comission, and 94% of all Bupa members were treated at these facilities, the question remained: ‘But…when will PHIN deliver the data that lets us show our customers are getting the best outcomes?’
Mr Perry also called on the sector to get serious about sustainability. Everyone needed to commit to it. ‘It can be an area where the independent sector leads the healthcare system.’
That would enhance its reputation and attract business with like-minded targets, he said.